This summary of Urges, my story of how I would pull my hair, and how hairpulling has molded my life, begins here:
The childhood story tells of the incident that first started my hairpulling urges at age 6 when riding in the back of an old pickup during fall harvest season on our Kansas farm. I introduce the reader to the rituals of hair pulling from searching for the perfect hair to the twisting and tugging and sensation experienced when I would pull my hair.
The story is about a neighbor boy who was killed in a farm accident and how this boy’s mother and my mother came together. This event, a couple of years before I started pulling, establishes the development of my faith and spirituality.
My childhood dream was to be on television, but as a teenager I realized that I would have to give up this dream because I couldn’t stop hair pulling. Who would want to watch a guy on TV with weird bald spots? But I realize as an adult that while that dream was shattered, I have achieved more than I could ever have dreamed as a child.
My vision of how God instilled trichotillomania within me as a blessing, and not a curse. This is the story of my introduction of school, cracking my elbow, and my mother sending me off to school with a pair of scissors that would go on to have significant meaning to me as an adult.
The Carrot Lady indelibly influenced my life with her mantra of “eat what you don’t like first, and eat what you like last.” It’s become a philosophy of my life, but I wonder if I pull my hair out first because I don’t like it, or do I pull my hair last because of the euphoric rush it gives me.
The story of the day I was “outed” for hair pulling when my parents took me to a doctor and he asked “why do you pull your hair, son?” As we drove the 70 miles to the doctor’s office that day, I vividly recall the power lines along the road, and wondered to myself if there were wires in my brain that had crossed, causing me to enjoy pulling my hair.
Shame is a strong emotion any of us who pull our hair feels. It was made worse for me the day my dad took me to the barber to have my head shaved. It didn’t stop me from hairpulling and it only intensified my urges as my hair grew back a few days after my head was shaved.
We raised hogs on the farm and one day with newborn baby pigs there was a runt in the litter that my dad was going to “knock in the head.” I begged to save it and nurture it, and after a few months, my runt of the litter initially named Henry, and later Henrietta, grew up to be my pet.
How growing up in church, going to summer Bible School and remembrances of every Christmas Eve, helped to keep my faith in God and Jesus Christ strong despite my longing for answers to my prayers.
Discovering one of my talents, the ability to stand up before an audience and confidently speak, was revealed through my participation in 4-H. This is the story of my Project Talk about my dairy project, but most importantly, how my confidence was restored one day after giving a Blue Ribbon performance as a 9 year old.
The unconditional love from parents is best demonstrated through actions. Even though I pulled my hair, it was clear to me that my parents loved me no matter what I did. My 4-H project was dairy, and my parents found the ideal Holstein heifer for me to raise. Whimpie would later be Grand Champion material, if only I had watched the judge that day at the County Fair.
Chores on the farm were part of farm life, and this is the story of cutting alfalfa, baling it, and putting it away in the barn. The metaphor of the elevator looping around and around as it carried baled of hay into the barn, and how my mind would loop around and around with my urge to keep pulling my hair.
Every summer I had to chop thistles and cut tall heads from the fields. It was a job that would result in perfectly groomed pastures and fields. Much like the pastures and fields had to be perfectly groomed, my disconnect was that while I wanted to look perfect, that perfection urge somehow manifested itself in being a hair puller.
A major dichotomy of my life has been my obsession with looking perfect. When I was a teenager, my parents bought me a new suit and I wore it to the Best Groomed Boy contest. I won and have the plaque to prove it. I really could be the “best groomed” and still hide my bald spots from my hair pulling.
When in high school one day there were was an assembly where some of my classmates were sitting on bleachers above me. One of them yelled out “Gary has horns!” when we saw my weirdly shaped bald spots.
My dramatic interpretation in high school was based on a story in the book All Quiet on the Western Front. Set during World War I, this soldier finds himself in a hospital without arms and legs. I delivered this interpretation while seated, arms to my side. It was a powerful way to convey the presentation, but what it really did for me was to imagine life without my arms and without the ability to pull my hair
I had no one to blame but myself. This chapter explores more about trichotillomania and what the medical community says about this disorder. It is also a revealing look at how having trich actually can be life threatening to the extent that there are teenagers who, after years of struggle with trich, decide to end their lives rather than go on with life.
How religion has played a role in my life along with verses from the Bible that has made me pause and think. Is hair pulling a sin? Should I cut off my hand? Or is hair pulling part of a larger plan from God for me?
By the end of college, I realized that I had to do something to cover up my bald spots since I couldn’t stop hair pulling. I decided it was time to get a hair replacement – a toupee. This was the day I saw myself in a mirror looking like I should look. This is the story of transition, and how my urges went away while wearing my hair replacement.
Through it all, I ultimately discovered love after my best friend and pal could ultimately accept me and my hair pulling urges. She would later marry me and be beside me throughout my life.
Trichotillomania is known to have genetic links. Did a grandparent pull her or his hair? I don’t think so, but I wonder about my maternal grandmother’s particular interest in hair. And how about my daughters? Are they pre-disposed to the wretched disorder? I pray they, or future grandchildren, are not.
As I approached the age of 50, I decided to get in shape and lose weight. Through it, I discovered that I no longer wanted to wear my hair replacement after nearly 28 years. This is the story of how I decided that it was time to change, and how a television show influenced my decision to go au natural.
I feared what would happen with shaving my head. This is the story about how I was accepted by the guys who I sing with in a Barbershop men’s chorus who accepted me one night when I broke the silence and told them that my hair pulling was not going to be a secret any longer.
I describe my belief that when I leave this earth I will know that I fulfilled one of my missions. That God put me on this earth to be a role model for the millions of people with obsessive urges to pull their hair. And that it is possible to live a normal life through acceptance and moving on.
My prayer for acceptance, being a blessing for others, and to serve as a role model for those in need.
Gary would appreciate knowing your comments on the outline of his book. Please send him a note.